Saturday, December 15, 2012

The Holbert Report

This weekend fell in between the cracks on the calendar as far as local live shows go so here's your chance to stay home under the radar and save up your strength for next weekend which already looks wild. Recently DC Rocks' new staff member. J. Holbert went to a couple of rock shows ( so you don't have to) and came up with The Holbert Report-a rundown on what you might have missed. The first story on the docket chronicles Neil Young's most recent tour which came through DC last month:

Neil Young and Patti Smith, what an interesting bill. Still I couldn’t decide if I wanted to go because it was at the Patriot Center, a 10,000 seater-maybe 15 miles outside of DC and no public transportation. I was there only once before when I saw the Sex Pistols on their first US reunion tour. The band was great, the sound was decent, but the huge downer of the night was they didn’t sell beer.
I tried to mobilize the cavalry for the show, but no one was interested mainly because of the arduous trek to the venue.  Finally I found an old friend who was psyched to go and volunteered to be the designated driver.
We left DC at 4:30 for the 7:30 show in order to beat the worst of the hellish Friday rush hour traffic that always accumulates in that direction. And we were successful, cruising out Route 66 in the HOV-2 lanes. We stopped at the Route 29 Diner(serving since 1947) just outside Fairfax City and close to the venue.  Six booths and maybe 15 seats at the counter. Only a few other patrons in the small place, but everyone was having a general conversation. We were quickly brought in to the chatter by the very friendly staff who announced to everybody that we were going to see Neil Young. Good decent basic food, very friendly service.
On to the show. We park, get to the arena, walk half way around it to find the only entrance you can use if you have General Admission tickets.  Get in and got our red plastic wristbands attached to denote that we were GA people.  Go to get a beer (Yes! They sell beer there now!) and get our blue plastic wristbands attached to denote that we were over 21. (as if that would be in doubt)  Go down to the floor and since we were a half hour early, we were only about 20 feet from the stage.
A band called Everest came on right at 7:30. I have heard of them, but had never heard their music. Exceptional singer. Rock and roll with a tinge of the South in it, maybe kind of like early Black Crowes.
Then came the big arena concert dread. How long until the next band?  Gotta say, Patti Smith was out in only about 15 minutes.  Patti all smiles waving to the audience opened with ”Dancing Barefoot”- one of my faves.  They sounded fantastic.  Then some new songs, good songs which got a warm reception. I was struck by how much she smiled; I had never seen her appear so happy on stage before. Her show ended with the hits: “Because the Night”, than a fabulously explosive “Gloria.” 
I had only seen Neil Young once during the Rust Never Sleeps Tour at the Capital Center in 1979 or '80 while I was in college.  I remember the roadies were dressed in Star Wars costumes. Tonight though, his roadies wore long white lab coats. Lights go down, the crowd screams, and The Beatles'song “A Day in the Life” starts playing over the PA.  As it plays, the roadies attach ropes to large packing cases which are lifted to reveal huge Fender amps.  The song ends. Roadies line up, and a big American flag lights up.  Neil and the band come out, and line up with the roadies as the “Star Spangled Banner” blares over the PA. Everyone on stage sings along. 
After this the band starts to play. Good Crazy Horse grunge, and boy, were they LOUD.  Crowd going nuts.  Second up was “Powderfinger” another one of my faves.  Beautiful.  The pot smoke really started to fill the air. A few people came slamming through, shoving, trying to get to the stage. Not cool. The song ended,and we decided to escape the weirdness we'd head up to the concourse to refresh our drinks. When we came back the acoustic portion was starting. We saw two empty seats on the aisle and grabbed those instead of heading down to the floor where we were supposed to be. “Needle” done perfectly. Neil was in great voice tonight.  
After the acoustic set ended, Crazy Horse came back out while Neil pretended to tune his guitar. Neil says, “OK, here’s an old one,” but continues to "tune." As he slides one note lower and lower, he starts listing some of his album titles in reverse chronological order as if searching for the song. He gets all the way back to the album “Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere,” finally stops, and breaks into “Cinnamon Girl”.  The crowd screams.  Everyone is on their feet. 
Neil and Crazy Horse then went back to the guitar sludge/feedback songs from his new album.  A couple more of those and the show was over.
Neil is an artist; Neil is a genius in my book and as so he has the right to play whatever he wants to play.  On this tour he is back into loud guitars and playing his newest songs.  I wonder if I will ever see him again.  Final conclusion:  I really liked his show, but wish he had played a few more of the fantastic songs that we grew up with. 

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